Thank you New York Times for featuring the powerful work we are doing with veterans. Thank you NEA for recognizing the meaningful work we do everyday as art therapists.
We all have baggage. Depending on our age and life experiences, some of us have more baggage than others. Our baggage might come from of some type of trauma, bad adults from our childhood, or even a recent bad work experience. Resilience is a buzz word getting thrown around these days, but the essence of being a resilient person boils down to how we categorize ourselves in relation to our baggage. Are you a survivor or a victim of these things that happened to you? We cannot change these things. We really can’t even change the people who did them to us or are doing them to us….We can only change ourselves and our attitude.
Please find some paper and draw or write about an experience in which you feel like you were victimized. This art exercise has the potential to be powerful and downright scary if you are exploring some serious trauma. If this is the case, please find someone you trust or feel safe with to explore these experiences with or even bring your art to a mental health professional. The simple explanation of the power of art making with brain science is that trauma is stored as images in the right hemisphere of our brains. When we try to explain our trauma to someone, this proves to be a challenge, because we are attempting to couple language (a left brian activity) with these images. By drawing the image onto paper, even in metaphor, we are suddenly giving ourselves something with which to have that dialogue. Art therapy has proven to be a very powerful tool for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and has been a powerful tool for alleviating symptoms connected to PTSD. In very simple terms, by taking the images out of this right hemisphere and onto paper, we can take time to analyze it and re-file the memory into our brain in a safer region, one that stores memories, making the experiences more distant and less sensory oriented.
If you are a victim, the road to becoming a survivor might involve a tremendous amount of work on your part, but is well worth the effort. If this post strikes a chord with you, please seek help from a trusted person to guide you through this process. Another way to approach this exercise is to ask yourself if you control your feelings or if they control you?
Yesterday’s Art Exercise:
Were you able to assign a person to each negative voice in your head? Sadly many of them might belong to teachers or adults from your past. Were you able to trace the roots of the voice owners’ own negativity? Realizing that these voices are not really in your head, but real people form your past or present is a great way to separate yourself from them and replace them with positive thoughts and voices of your own.